Vampirella Valentine’s Day Special Elevates A Cheesecake Icon

by Tony Thornley

I am not a Vampirella fan. It’s nothing really against the character, who is interesting in the appearances I have read her in, but her cheesecake status has turned me off. Too often creators go to that well, and it’s not pleasant to read in my opinion. However, Dynamite’s Vampirella Valentine’s Day Special bucks that trend.

Cover by Ergun Gunduz

This issue was created by Leah Williams, Maria Sanapo, Ceci de la Cruz, and Taylor Esposito. It also features a classic black and white Vampi tale from 2005 by Michael Golden.

In the New Orleans twilight of February 13th, Vampirella is summoned to a house on the promise of a lead in the case of 13 missing children. There she encounters a child-murdering monster called a Lamia and a Cajun named Val. After defeating the Lamia, the duo adventure through New Orleans, defeating numerous other supernatural threats before they can feast on the drunken Mardi Gras crowds.

To be honest, I’m just in awe of how Williams continues to write such consistently good comics. I picked this issue up exclusively because she was writing, and I was not disappointed. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s a solid action story with an emotional and character-driven core.

I really dig two things in particular here. First of all, Williams creates an interesting bond between Vampi and Val. Their relationship develops naturally over the course of the issue, to the point that they genuinely feel like friends. And though there is sexual tension between the two, Williams doesn’t force it, but instead leaves it hanging there, perhaps for later stories.

Secondly, this story is rooted in Williams’ own southern roots. Val would definitely draw comparisons to the most famous comic book Cajun, but as the issue goes on he feels more and more like a true southern good ol’ boy. The monsters and spirits in the issue are also uniquely Southern, from a Lamia taking advantage of post Katrina slums, to ghosts of deceased mail-order brides, to the creatures of final showdown that I won’t spoil. No one but Williams could have written this story, and it’s all the better for it.

Sanapo’s line art is a really good complement to Williams’ story. Her Vampi is a lot more subdued than the classic swimsuit-clad vixen, paying service more to the action and the emotion than to cheesecake. She choreographs the action well, with some great layouts and camera shots. She does have Vampi shed her trenchcoat to reveal the classic costume several times, but each time it actually makes sense, giving the character more flexibility to fight, rather than just flashing skin.

De la Cruz’s color art adds a lot of mood to the story. She uses bright colors to her advantage with splashes red for emphasis and effect.

This was a fun story that I wasn’t planning on picking up but ultimately was glad I did.

Vampirella Valentine’s Day Special is available now from Dynamite Entertainment.

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